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Norman Fischer
Four Poems

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If we're living in two worldsArtist Name
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More Than Before


At least as much as before

More than wanted or thought to

Or hurled words upon the soft

That one confesses pelting

Rawness without sorrow or wound

In this perfectly perfect painterly picture

Pervading permissible places with names

The low the high the bad the good etc.

To be shouted into storm

At least as much as before




Poem (marching orders)


No use trying to hide the plain-sight secret

Whose secret? Not mine, yours

The peripheral knows the peripheral speaks the peripheral

Slides out from the clammy cupboard so scummy in there so fly-blown

Then get born and picks up marching orders it’s all

Demarcated in advance so much time for so many

Steps each one deft according to the chart

Whether you take it

Or stumble back

Words remain bombastic and ironic the whole time you mouth them

As you stew in life’s duplicitous everydayness

Of obdurate stuff and uncooked emotion

Gray outside today as usual on windy California coast

One among the conceivable locations some daytime light 

Moon and stars at night




Poem (song birds)


Control the children if you’re able

Can’t then get them back into their outfits

Ladies, please come forward

With your hand-held roses

Corruption presides over all the world

Under a yellow parasol 

And then songbirds walk gingerly

Over corpses or other meathunks

As discovered later when people finally

Find gumption to peep out from under covers

Driven to that of their own unhappiness

That finally got too much, the unfairness of it all

Makes them weep they know not why

Wide world of whose making?

Mantled world masked by whom?

Noted duly and circumstantially inspired

In this duet I’m singing with you

In my male and female voices




A Riddle?



A fat monk

In bulky robes

Shaved pate

In slightly bent



It’s Australia

With a little happy

Cloud floating



It’s a person

Hair blown back

By wind

Looking forward

Resolutely in teeth

Of that wind


It’s two 

Little clouds



Other, one

In foreground

One in distance


It’s 60 people

Sitting so close

They seem like

One large clotted person


It’s a brain 

Outside a windowpane

A nationstate

A lake




As World Turns


There’s a reason for it

Far out in space perhaps

But I couldn’t know

That the way I’m tuned

So to self thought

Such local thought

This one, that,

So noble and fine

While birds around

Here flit cheerful

Fight over food just

Being alive 

Birds come, go,

Dart all ways

Nest and breed as

Things do once they 

Start I’m unsure of

Thoughts, words

Form them it might 

Be me creates 

World I have to live in

With others 

Rub sticks together’s friction

Or fire if you’re


Or need the warmth

That burns you down


Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer is a poet, essayist, and Soto Zen Buddhist priest who has written and published steadily since the late 1970’s. Recent poetry titles include Nature, There Was A Clattering As… , The Museum of Capitalism, and Selected Poems 1980-2013. His Experience: On Thinking, Writing, Language and Religion was published in the University of Alabama Press Poetics Series in 2016. His latest Buddhist title is When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen. He lives in Muir Beach CA with his wife Kathie, also a Zen priest.

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